There's no way around it. If you're the boss or team lead, you have to be able to keep up with the increasing demands of your company and industry. And generally speaking, most people don't like thinking about their inevitable demise, anyway. So it's totally understandable that, right now, entrepreneurs gobble up information on how to prevent cognitive and overall decline.
But according to activist and aging expert Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, one of the best ways to stay mentally and physically young is to just not worry about it.
How a positive attitude on aging does you good
In a video on Big Think, Applewhite asserts that having a more positive outlook on aging and having a more balanced, realistic view of what you're actually likely to experience has a full range of benefits. She points to a collective body of research suggesting that individuals who don't fret about getting older might
But perhaps the biggest assertion, supported by a study from the Yale School of Public Health, is that a positive outlook actually offers protection against dementia, even if you're predisposed to have it. The rationale is the same for the other points above--stress is toxic to the body and brain, so if you can ditch all the worry and anxiety related to ageism, you'll benefit your mental health on a biological level, in part because you'll be more likely to participate in activities that support wellbeing.
Applewhite points out, too, that a great outlook can have a real influence on daily operations and productivity. For instance, if you're willing to set aside cultural ideas about more elderly individuals, then pairing a young worker with an older worker can give a wonderful blend of energy and experience. So it's not just about doing better for your own sake. It's also about working in a way that science tells you improves the odds of a lasting business legacy.
How to develop the positive attitude you need
Taking all this into account, stop chasing Fountain of Youth gimmicks. Instead, work to develop the age-related and generally positive attitude that's going to keep you sharp.
Dr. R. Yanek, assistant professor with John Hopkins, offers three recommendations, which I've expanded where possible with additional science.
1. Smile more. Smiling--even the fake kind--can reduce heart and blood pressure in stressful situations, according to a University of Kansas study. And because it releases hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, smiling can make you feel happier. And lastly, because of mirror neurons in the brain, if you smile at someone, they're likely to smile back. This offers some positive feedback that can combat thoughts that the world is impossibly dreary and cold.
2. Reframe. For example, yes, maybe your car broke down and forced you to catch a bus. But maybe you met someone new on the ride and had an incredible conversation you wouldn't have had if you'd driven yourself. The more you consciously look for the positive and express gratitude, the more you train your brain to find it easily. Change your narrative and don't ruminate.
3. Build resiliency. Yanek says that maintaining good relationships, accepting change as part of life and taking action on problems all are key to developing toughness and the ability to spring back. But learning to plan well, being willing to forgive, having clear goals to focus on, practicing real self-compassion and self-care, taking on and overcoming small tasks that scare you, and being mindful all build resiliency, too.
And as a bonus, here's one more recommendation from me for free.
4. See the other explanations rather than jumping to conclusions. As Applewhite explains, sometimes people assume they have an aging issue when in fact they don't, just because they're scared. Do your homework and learn what else could be behind the problem. Older people don't always take longer to come up with answers because of decline, for example. They often take longer simply because their brains actually have more to sift through. Ignorance, to be blunt, is the fuel of fear.
You can't change getting older. But the attitude you have as you walk that bridge? That's very much in your hands.